Jan 21 2011

Retirement Planning implications of Kurzweil’s Singularity

I recently listened to an interview that Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near author) did with the guys at Speculist.com. Their 10 part archived audio series The World Transformed is highly recommended.  The interview walked through many of  Kurzweil’s views and predictions.  This article discusses the implications to Retirement Planning that are implied by the approaching Singularity according to Kurzweil’s forecasts.

Warning: This sounds a little crazy, as did many of the technologies we all use today – 30 years ago (computers, cell phones, internet…).

Human Hardwiring Makes It Hard to Project The Future

The problem is that our intuition is linear. In other words, we forcast the future based on the trends of the past, which appear to us as linear changes. We are often incredulous of these projected changes, but after they happen, the nature of human psychology leads us to rationalize them as having been inevitable and no big deal.

In addition, even scientists who are now working in the scientific fields do not appreciate the radical changes that will emerge as the various specialty fields converge.

The 3 main Singularity themes the Kurzweil talked about were Biotech (Genetics), Nanotech, and Artificial Intelligence (or Robotics) sometimes abbreviated as GNR.

Biotech Advances:

-Advances in biotechnology only recently started to progress exponentially – aided by computer modelling of bio simulators.

-Within 15 – 20 years, we will be able to reprogram our biological software (i.e. dna) to move away from disease and aging.

IMPLICATIONS TO RETIREMENT PLANNING: If you can remain reasonably healthy for 20 years, this technology will be able to halt and reverse the effects of aging. Don’t base your Retirement Plan on a typical age 90 model (as most professionals currently do).  Plan on extreme longevity and thus the need for an indefinite retirement income.  Orient more time and energy towards  health and well-being. This will likely require more financial resources as new medical innovations have initial high costs. Consider buying Critical Illness insurance which pays out a lump sum of money upon the diagnosis of a broad range of illnesses so you have the capital to address these health problems.  There will be interesting opportunities for investment in companies involved with the technologies of the Singularity.

Nanotech Advances

– Here we will be able to reprogram matter and energy at the molecular level to create new materials and devices. Like a 3-D desktop printer.

– Nano factories will be able to create anything from inexpensive matter (think StarTrek replicator). This is about 20 years away – and then would be distributed during the 2030’s.

– Solar power which is doubling every 2 years, will be able to provide all of mankind’s energy needs.

IMPLICATIONS TO RETIREMENT PLANNING?: Nanotechnology will provide the long-term solution for energy, pollution and poverty. As the innovations start to be anticipated and introduced, there will be radical creative destruction of many industries (i.e. oil & gas industry) and therefore dramatic effects to the stock markets.  The anticipation of the future dramatic economic, and sociological impacts will start to show up within the next 10 years.  Then, sometime in the 2030’s, the world of bartering for material goods would be replaced by a world without need.  If you can manufacture any material goods and energy,  the world goes from a scarcity model to a post-scarcity world of abundance.  Money will be irrelevant. If you can survive the disruptive transition, the idea of Retirement becomes just your indefinite life without material need.

Artificial Intelligence  AI

– We humans will merge with machines. We are already a  human/machine civilization but the advances in tech and AI will put this into our transformed bodies.

– This Kurzweil considers the most important area…essentially capturing human intelligence and especially the heart of human intelligence; pattern recognition.

– Within 20 years, we will have detailed models of the brains capacities. Once the brain has been reversed engineered, then the methods of engineering will multiply the capacity and speed a billion-fold.  Such  AI will surpass human intelligence within 20 years.  The Singularity occurs 2045 – where this becomes inconceivable.

IMPLICATION TO RETIREMENT PLANNING?: The ability to augment human intelligence will replace a life based on survival and scarcity, to one of higher human values. Again, initial enhancements will cost money and will not immediately be globally available.  Again, the changes as they happen will create  investment opportunities and risks.

This discussion is based on the time-lines as predicted by Kurzweil. Many others think that there will be obstacles along the way that will make these outcomes unlikely. However, regardless on the actual time-lines, the creative destruction of the innovations in GSR will be dramatic.  Extended life expectancies and the economic risks and opportunities from converging technologies will shape a new way of Planning for Retirement.  At RetirementSingularity.com, I will help you navigate these changes!


Permanent link to this article: http://www.retirementsingularity.com/retirement-implications-from-kurzweil-interview/


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    • Duane on February 14, 2011 at 8:42 PM
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    I appreciate this post and enjoy considering what the future might be like given the possibility of a near singularity. That said, I disagree with the idea that money will be irrelevant–there may be more kinds of money (i.e. money is a computable promise, and I believe we will need more kinds of computable commitments in the future), but I don’t see it going away altogether. So how do you justify the idea that money will become “irrelevant”? Do you mean irrelevant only in the narrow way that we use it now (i.e. in exchange for material goods)?

  1. Hi Duane:

    Keep in mind we are trying to envision a world drastically different then the world today. The changes will happen in many, many small steps…. so certainly some kind of currency will be needed for many years to come.

    But in the world say of the late 2030’s, advances in nanotechnology will open the door to being able to engineer, at an atomic level, virtually anything at nearly no cost. A piece of dirt can be atomically engineered to become a trumpet – by just saying “trumpet” to your desktop nano-thingy.

    If you have everything you want, do you need currency? (the nano desktop machines are free and can self-replicate on request). OK, you might say, that is just about things or “goods” – but what about “services” we use? Well,they are provided for free since the things that provide the services can be nano-engineered (i.e. your massage robot).

    However, don’t forget that not only the world of things will be radically changed, but also we ourselves may also choose to be radically changed – our genes, organs, brain-processes nano-re-engineered.

    Again, all this happens in steps, but the idea is that these steps occur faster and faster. Even the body-processes that contribute to habits/ emotions/ experiences are also under “our” control (and hopefully not someone else’s control…) and get nano-enhanced.

    So in this world, does having a bank account seem relevant? It seems more likely to me that the current model of each individual needing to convert currency into goods and services will be also be “re-engineered. It get’s pretty wild when you start imagining the implications, no?

    Cheers, Michael

    1. I’m posting this because of the focus on Mr. Kurzweil’s work I’m glad it’s getting so much attention, particularly now. I read Kurzweil’s year 2000 mind-uploading article in Psychology Today when it first came out and was intrigued, especially by his depiction of what it might be like to live in virtual reality. As part of the article, he imagines two friends meeting in a virtual cafe. The fantasy highlights the virtuals’ choices in physical appearance (raspberry eyes and custom musculature). One person in Kurzweil’s scenario has several copies of himself, who are busy doing other things and the cafe friends joke about still being able to identify each other. After reading his account, I was excited by the idea of death being an option and not a necessary end and considered what existing as a virtual being might really be like. So many options and so much time. I wondered how much time might pass before all the jokes were old, the fantasies played out and eye options no longer charmed. What inheritance laws might call into question which copy is real and can decide who gets the family silver and sell off the estate and pays the taxes. In 2003 I wrote a treatment for a screenplay. Then, in 2005 I began to write novels and decided to explore in depth ways this technology might change us our society, laws and the sum of all that data our humanity. Providing these environments might be quite profitable with lots of bells and whistles. In October of 2009, I began to write a novel called Babylon Dreams. In February 2010, I finished it. If you have the time, I hope you’ll take a look at my wordpress blog- marjoriekayesbabylondreams Marjorie Kaye

      1. Hi Marjorie (Eliana?):
        As you say, the implications of life extension, virtual avatars, implications to society are indeed far-reaching!

        On your comment, “So many options and so much time. I wondered how much time might pass before all the jokes were old, the fantasies played out and eye options no longer charmed.” Yes, it is a question of whether we will really WANT to live say beyond 150 years re things getting old even if we are not!! On the other hand, I also think that we as thinking, feeling beings, we will also change – I am referring to the predicted enhancements of our cognitive capabilities via biotech/nanotech interventions. So we are trying to imagine the future using our current sensibilities while our future sensibilities may be quite different/expanded etc. Do you have any thoughts about that?

        I look forward to looking up your blog and novel!
        Cheers, Michael

    • daigoumee on May 22, 2011 at 6:48 PM
    • Reply

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

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